A Controversial Summit
Last week saw the end of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) which was hosted in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Much debate was had around the fact that a top oil-producing country was hosting a summit focused on tackling climate change. On top of this, the COP President appointed was Sultan al-Jaber, a chief executive of the state-owned oil company Adnoc, fueling concerns that this year’s conference would be heavily influenced by fossil fuel interests. It was later found out in documents leaked to the BBC, that the UAE planned to use COP28 to discuss new oil and gas deals with 15 nations.
Is this the beginning of the end for fossil fuels?
Up until now, COP has failed to mention the root cause of the climate crisis in the final bill, which is fossil fuels. This year, it was no surprise that many had dwindling hopes of any language that alluded to the phasing down or phasing out of fossil fuels. However, after a dramatic turn of events and seemingly at the last minute… the final bill was passed with countries agreeing to “transition away” from coal, oil, and gas. This language was softened from the draft bill’s stronger language stating a “phase out” of fossil fuels.
Some see this progress as a huge victory, with al-Jaber saying himself that the conference “should be proud of our historic achievement”.
On the other hand, the deal doesn’t force countries to take definitive action or set a timeline of standards for phasing down/out fossil fuels. The keyword, “contribute” is used when stating how countries will transition; this creates a loophole which leaves plenty of leeway and opportunities for countries to exploit the deal by contributing only the bare minimum.
A Renewable Energy Boom and Carbon Capture & Storage
A key deal made at the summit was countries committing to triple their renewable energy capacity and double their energy efficiency improvements by 2030. It is clear that renewables are the future, eventually overtaking finite fossil fuel resources.
Carbon Capture and Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) was cited to be a solution for mitigating the emissions produced by fossil fuels. However, some climate groups highlighted this as a “dangerous distraction”, pointing out that CCUS does not mitigate carbon emission reduction at the speed required, both due to the high cost, underdevelopment, and scale needed.
The Loss and Damage Fund
COP27 was successful in establishing the long awaiting “loss and damage fund”, which aims to help poorer nations who are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts such as flooding or destroyed homes. Previous commitments have been made to help mitigate and adapt, in preparation for the future effects of climate change, however, this was seen as not enough by many.
It was agreed at COP28 that money could start being handed out from the loss and damage fund. This money will come from richer nations which are historically the main contributors to climate change and given to those poorer countries who are currently feeling the harshest of impacts.
A very small portion of £630 million was pledged at the summit, which scientists predict is less than 1% of what is needed. However, getting the fund up and running has been seen as a success. It is estimated that between £79 billion to £319 billion per year will be needed and getting richer countries to contribute to these funds has been one of the biggest challenges in recent years of COP summits.
Will COP28 be one for the history books?
It was the first time fossil fuels have been explicitly mentioned in the final bill, however, many are still skeptical of how effective COP is. The critics of COP accuse countries and businesses of using the summit as a “greenwashing” opportunity and to strike new oil and gas deals. However, COP presents a unique opportunity to make real change on a global scale.
Next year sees another oil state, Azerbaijan, host COP29, prompting similar concerns that both the UAE and Egypt faced in their host years. The success of COP28 remains to be seen and the world will be watching to see how countries and businesses follow up on their commitments.